Is Macron the new Blair: Lauded abroad, mocked at home?

Occasionally in our mature and seemingly predictable western democracies comes a politician who claims to re...

Posted: Sep 29, 2018 1:58 PM
Updated: Sep 29, 2018 1:58 PM

Occasionally in our mature and seemingly predictable western democracies comes a politician who claims to represent something new, but not revolutionary. Neither a populist nor even a radical, but a politician who is at once of the system and beyond it. Think Tony Blair, who transformed the British Labour party just before the 1997 landslide and, more recently, Emmanuel Macron, who went further by circumventing France's party system entirely in his bid for the top job.

Both were centrists who believed the center had lost its way, both came in on a wave of euphoria and hope after what had felt like years of inertia. And both had an almost messianic belief in themselves and in their ability to change the system -- not, in their view, to threaten it, but rather to save it.

Emmanuel Macron

Political Figures - Intl

Populism

Society

Tony Blair

Government and public administration

Politics

With hindsight, the confidence and sense of mission that gave Tony Blair the ability to change the Labour party and then Westminster ended up being hubris that would, in 2003, lead him so confidently into a catastrophic and hugely unpopular war in Iraq.

It was his supreme confidence and extraordinary belief in himself (not to mention the chutzpah it took to present so much flimsy evidence on the existence of weapons of mass destruction as fact) that went a long way to convincing many a wavering lawmaker to back him in that now infamous vote in the spring of 2003.

Of course, Emmanuel Macron has not done anything nearly as controversial. But his own hubris threatens him in ways that are strangely familiar.

Mocked for being a 'poodle'

Just as Tony Blair once claimed to have the ear of George W. Bush, Emmanuel Macron has gone out of his way to establish a rapport with Donald Trump. Both Macron and Blair seemed to believe they were getting from the relationships more than they got and both were mocked at home for being the poodles of the very men they hoped to influence.

As a result, both were seeking to punch above their weight internationally even as their own electorates were losing faith.

Surprisingly perhaps, Emmanuel Macron's exchanges with Donald Trump in New York this week left the French press unmoved this time. It was far more preoccupied with the scandal here in France that continues to surround the president's former security aide, Alexandre Benalla.

The publication of a selfie showing him carrying a gun during Macron's campaign has led to an investigation, just weeks after it emerged that the Élysée had initially kept quiet about a video showing Benalla beating up protesters on the sidelines of a May Day demonstration.

It is a story that has led to charges that Macron is out of touch with his electorate and so powerful that those around him are being protected from the law as it applies to others. And so far, Macron has failed to address the anger, leading some to accuse him of hubris.

An interview in which he will speak to the French public for the first time since the scandal broke is expected next month, but it will have taken weeks. And during that time his opinion poll ratings have fallen 12 points to an abysmal 28%.

Meanwhile he has lost a popular environment minister because Macron, who has made himself the guarantor of the Paris climate change agreement, has not, according to Nicolas Hulot, done enough domestically to curb climate change. He has also lost a sports minister and will soon lose his interior minister, Gerard Collomb, who will the leave the government next year in a bid to return to his old job as mayor of Lyon.

Suspicions on the right and the left

Internationally, of course, Macron remains far more popular, partly because he has benefited from the rise of populism elsewhere. To many multilateralists and especially to pro-Europeans, he is the only game in town, his vision standing in stark contrast to the populist nationalism that appears to be spreading on both sides of the Atlantic. He is being rooted for because he has positioned himself as the representative and champion of an entire world vision.

His next battle will be for the soul of Europe. He has made clear that he believes the European elections next spring will be an existential fight for the future of the entire European project. On one hand a growing band of euroskeptic populists who intend to fight the EU from within, and on the other, the sort of European liberalism of which Macron has become the poster child.

The trouble for Macron is that the liberalism -- generally described by the French with a sneer as "Anglo-Saxon" -- that makes him so popular abroad, is also what makes him deeply suspicious to many on both the left and the right in France. And while the European elections may be important to the future of Europe, they are not the electoral test that he needs to worry about.

Speaking to a journalist in New York earlier this week, Macron boasted, when asked about his dismal approval ratings, about the fact that he had the good fortune of not having to face midterms. But as Blair's star declined, the Labour party had Gordon Brown waiting in the wings.

But Macron's La République En Marche party has no one but the man who built it for himself when he launched his improbable presidential bid. And if he goes, there is unlikely to be much left.

Terre Haute
Broken Clouds
30° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 19°
Robinson
Overcast
30° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 20°
Indianapolis
Overcast
29° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 15°
Rockville
Overcast
28° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 18°
Casey
Overcast
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 18°
Brazil
Broken Clouds
30° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 19°
Marshall
Broken Clouds
30° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 19°
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 720114

Reported Deaths: 12882
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook3042206595
DuPage45087788
Will38684563
Lake37299631
Kane31767467
Winnebago18948262
Madison14379255
McHenry14269156
St. Clair13410259
Champaign1079858
Sangamon1015799
Peoria9147133
Kankakee8636103
Rock Island8612135
McLean848954
Tazewell6835104
Macon6517132
Kendall626947
LaSalle6108134
DeKalb499047
Adams473548
Vermilion391551
Boone390733
Whiteside3743115
Williamson361083
Clinton330861
Coles329859
Ogle285037
Knox280766
Grundy277618
Effingham277021
Henry270015
Jackson268536
Marion248551
Stephenson246635
Randolph226826
Livingston224527
Macoupin223218
Morgan220936
Bureau211643
Monroe207545
Franklin204825
Lee201034
Christian189443
Jefferson187859
Woodford175827
Fayette170931
Logan170113
Iroquois169326
McDonough158241
Fulton146012
Shelby137426
Douglas135416
Jersey127224
Union118228
Montgomery115519
Crawford112213
Saline111625
Perry110223
Warren109020
Jo Daviess107617
Carroll107024
Lawrence107011
Bond104810
Pike101427
Cass96423
Hancock95612
Wayne90833
Moultrie89810
Clay84020
Greene82831
Edgar80815
Clark79820
Piatt7835
Richland78019
Ford75222
Mercer74510
Mason72120
Johnson7136
Washington7002
Jasper64411
Cumberland61416
White6148
De Witt61317
Massac5993
Wabash5708
Menard4661
Pulaski4132
Marshall4066
Hamilton3873
Brown3224
Henderson2891
Schuyler2711
Stark2683
Alexander2562
Calhoun2470
Putnam2430
Scott2310
Edwards2263
Gallatin1913
Unassigned1850
Hardin1551
Pope1011
Out of IL100

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 333312

Reported Deaths: 5685
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion45371865
Lake28722469
Allen19325304
Elkhart17945235
St. Joseph17599237
Hamilton14061171
Vanderburgh10280127
Tippecanoe920230
Porter873389
Johnson6973170
Hendricks6674158
Vigo637392
Monroe560850
Madison5410122
Clark540478
Delaware5184103
LaPorte492897
Kosciusko480741
Howard379478
Bartholomew347365
Warrick343073
Wayne340985
Floyd334978
Marshall317946
Cass307931
Grant295450
Hancock286957
Noble269347
Henry262837
Boone261955
Dubois249632
Dearborn238231
Jackson235534
Morgan228743
Gibson201229
Shelby199859
Knox196621
DeKalb190234
Clinton189222
Lawrence187949
Wabash181122
Miami176817
Adams176223
Daviess165845
Fayette157634
Steuben156415
Jasper155913
Montgomery154629
Harrison154124
Ripley151521
LaGrange150631
Whitley146815
Huntington140210
Decatur137144
Putnam134828
White134823
Wells134630
Clay132724
Randolph132622
Jefferson131316
Posey127718
Scott118921
Greene109053
Sullivan105016
Jay104414
Jennings97814
Starke96624
Spencer9078
Fulton88619
Perry86421
Fountain8608
Washington8387
Franklin75727
Carroll73713
Orange71828
Vermillion6867
Owen6598
Tipton62727
Parke6226
Rush5918
Newton58812
Blackford57312
Pike54020
Pulaski44215
Benton3843
Martin3826
Brown3705
Crawford3221
Union2862
Switzerland2725
Warren2653
Ohio2437
Unassigned0267